Time Warner Cable Veteran Fred Dressler Dies at 66


Fred Dressler, a veteran Time Warner Cable executive, died Monday after battling pancreatic cancer for several months. He was 66.

Dressler, who spent 30 years at Time Warner Cable, retired at the end of 2006 as executive vice president of programming at the nation’s second largest cable TV operator.

Dressler, who negotiated countless contracts with cable programming networks, was known as a tough negotiator. He also created a digital sports programming tier at Time Warner Cable in 2003, which included networks such as The Tennis Channel, NBA TV and College Sports Television.

In an internal memo last year announcing Dressler’s retirement, Time Warner Cable senior executive vice president Rob Marcus called Dressler “the dean of MSO programming executives who championed “unique content and niche programming throughout his tenure.” 

Dressler was at the forefront of the launch of several cable networks, including E! Entertainment Television in the 1980s; video-on-demand and pay-per-view purveyor In Demand; and more recently, SportsNet New York, the regional sports network owned by the New York Mets, Time Warner Cable and Comcast. 

“Words cannot adequately express the sense of loss we all feel at this time. Fred was responsible for much of what Time Warner Cable stands for today,” Time Warner Cable CEO Glenn Britt said in a statement released Wednesday. “His reputation as a fierce negotiator was always tempered by his humor and sense of fairness. His legacy will be felt for many years, not just in our programming department, but throughout our organization and the industry. The best characterization I can think of to describe Fred is ‘revered.’ Fred was revered for his intellect, his wit, his perspective, his vision, and his humanity. We will miss him very much.”

Dressler began his career at ABC-TV and also worked at Courier-Life Newspapers and United Press International in New York. In 1967 he moved to Denver, where he worked for KBTR, an all news radio station. He became a political reporter and editorial director for KBTV (now KUSA-TV) and later the executive news producer for KMGH-TV.

It was during his time at KBTV when he was introduced to cable pioneer Bill Daniels, who later persuaded him to join the cable industry. 

Dressler entered the cable TV business in 1976 as assistant general manager of ATC’s Shreveport, LA, system, then served as general manager of the Fresno, California system, corporate division manager and vice president of new market development, where he headed most of ATC’s franchising efforts.

Dressler was chairman of In Demand, the largest pay-per-view network in the United States. Also, he was a founder of E! Entertainment Network, Sun Sports Network in Florida and SportsNet New York. Most recently, he served as chairman of the advisory board of S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University. After retiring from Time Warner Cable, he continued to consult and advise for a variety of media firms, including the BBC, Crown Media Holdings, MusicNet, Retirement Living TV, and Univision.

Dressler is survived by his wife Patricia Armstrong Dressler, who produces educational programs through EduCable L.L.C. He is also survived by his parents, Anne and Martin Dressler; a sister, Susan Dressler; his son Douglas and daughter-in-law Terra; son Kevin and daughter-in-law Courtney; and three grandchildren: Lauren, 6, Katharine, 2 and Hailey, 1.

Dressler’s family asked that friends and family wishing to make donations on his behalf direct their contributions to Syracuse University’s S.I. Newhouse School, the Smilow Cancer Hospital, which will be part of the Yale-New Haven Hospital complex, or the American Cancer Society.

Funeral services will be private. A memorial service for friends and family will be announced at a later time.